Scientists Created A Weird Science-Level Meatball Made From Mammoth DNA

Exotic meat has been known to take stomachs by storm. Animal protein sources that might be unusual in the U.S., like Kangaroos and emus, have been sold as sausages, burgers, and even on pizza. But scientists have recently created a new meatball made of something a little more ... prehistoric. Don't worry; this is not the beginning of a real-life Jurassic Park.

Move over Ikea, we've got a new meatball in town. Scientists recently produced it with woolly mammoth DNA ... sort of. Vow, an Australian cultured meat startup, used the mammoth genome to produce an "approximation" of the animal's myoglobin, a type of protein found in muscle tissue. They filled in unknown parts of the genome with elephant DNA and used sheep cells as a base to culture the meat (via CNN). As a precaution against the risk of unknown extinct-animal allergies, Vow employees didn't taste their mammoth meatballs. However, they did mention that the aroma was similar to that of crocodile meat (via Business Insider). Instead of making its way to our plates, it will be sent to a Dutch museum of science called Rijksmuseum Boerhaave.

But concerns about secret allergens didn't stop one company from trying its own mammoth meal. Another startup called Paleo added mammoth myoglobin to a plant-based burger and reported that it was more intense and meaty when compared to using cow myoglobin, according to Business Insider. Even so, some have been quick to say that neither food creation is actually very mammoth-like.

There's not so much mammoth in the cultured meatballs

But how were these companies able to create meat based on an animal that went extinct thousands of years ago? The answer is cell biology. Cultured meat is grown in a lab. And no type of meat is out of reach as long as the DNA is available. However, the so-called mammoth meatballs likely bear little resemblance to the real thing in terms of taste.

Getting your hands on real mammoth remains is difficult, so companies had to improvise. Vow's meatballs turned out to be closer to sheep meat, as it was the base of the cell culture. Evolutionary genomics professor Love Dalén told Business Insider that they were "elephant meatballs" since their myoglobin DNA was basically the same as an Asian elephant's. Which begs the question: If this isn't actually mammoth meat, what's the whole point of this publicity stunt?

Cultured meat has the potential to help solve many of the problems that plague the planet, whether environmental or humanitarian. Calling the creation mammoth meatballs was a flashy way of showing the public what the approach is capable of. The aim is to inspire discussion about the benefits it can bring to our society. One day, maybe you'll be able to buy a bag of lab-grown chicken nuggets or non-mammoth meatballs found on grocery store shelves.